Forget four seasons. Everywhere you go, there are only two seasons: high and low. It all comes down to the weather. High season may have the best weather — depending on what you are doing — but it costs more. Low season can be cheaper, but the weather isn’t great.
What defines high and low varies. In much of the world, high is warm and low is cold. High is summer, when people are on holiday. But at ski resorts it’s the other way around: High is winter, when there is snow.
In tropical countries there are rainy and dry seasons. Dry is high season, rainy is low. There are countries where it rains constantly throughout the rainy season, but in some places, the rain is only a downpour of an hour or two that actually cools things down on hot, humid days. Lots of places in Cambodia, for example, are better in the rainy season: The rivers and lakes haven’t dried up; the moats around Angkor Wat are full and lush.
Even in southern Europe it’s cold in NovemberThe compromise is the shoulder season — spring or fall. In the tropics that means the end of the rainy season and beginning of the dry, when the rains are less frequent but their positive effects on the surroundings are most evident, or the end of the dry season, before the rains come down in full force.
Aim for early fall or late spring in Europe. Even in southern Europe it’s cold in November, cold still as late as Easter. The museums are less crowded at those times of year — there are no long lines to see the Statue of David in Florence — but sunny Tuscany is gray, wet, and cold, and the north of Europe is freezing. The weather is much better in May and September, and it’s less crowded than summer.
In Egypt late fall is best, November and December, when it’s less hot during the day. High season runs against the weather in parts of South America. The Peruvian winter is high season because it’s summer in the northern hemisphere when Americans and Europeans travel, but it’s cold on the coast and in the Andes. It’s less expensive there to go when the weather is better.